The Big Read

No. 91 – The Godfather, Mario Puzo Read 2/5/15

After the rather dark and crusty world of Bleak House I fancied a bit of a shift in time and place. So The Godfather was about as different as it could get. I had seen maybe the first 15 minutes of the film a few years ago but I knew of course the general sort of plot. New York Italian gangsters.

Vito Corleone is the Don of the Corleone family. Head of the family olive oil business he is also a notorious mafioso. He commands the respect of the entire Italian community of New York and the USA. His friendship is invaluable and people flock to ask this most powerful of men a favour for which they are forever in his debt. The Godfather follows the Corleone family through the underworld of 1940s New York, a tale of blackmail, murder and revenge.

Now I didn’t really expect to enjoy The Godfather but it was so compelling I couldn’t help but like it. It is so well written the world is completely absorbing. For some reason when you are reading it, it all seems completely reasonable and logical. This world has its own rules and they don’t seem so bad. It is only when you stop reading and come back to the real world that it sinks in how brutal and cruel it is. I must warn you that this book is very graphically violent. But the violence is described in such a casual nonchalant way that it isn’t particularly shocking. You just accept it as the characters do in the book.

I don’t really know how to classify this book because my instinct is Thriller/Suspense but when I think about it I can’t really pick out an actually mystery. There is no problem to solve as thrillers often have, this book is more about getting to the truth. The truth of what it is like to be a part of the Mafia. It is gripping and you have to know how it ends. You care about the characters without having any empathy for them. You want to know what happens to them but you don’t really mind what the outcome is so long as you know. The mystery is this world and as a reader I got a buzz from learing secrets so carefully guarded. It is like the Sicilian law of omerta (silence) has been broken and all the Mafia’s depravity laid bare for all to see.

That is why I feel this book is so incredibly clever. It creates for the reader the mindset of this world. Concerned but detached. It comes alive so vividly. I also really enjoy the complex characters Puzo creates. Those who are clever and ruthless and loving all at the same time. It is a strange world and an excellent read. I never would have read it if I hadn’t started on the BBC Top 100 and I am so glad I did because it brought me The Godfather.

Rating: 5/5

Would recommend to: adults (definitely not suitable for children) who feel disengaged from society.

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